Four members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence have occupied the courtyard of Georgetown's Holy Trinity Church to protest the financial priorities of the church.
The four, all of whom said that they have been fasting for 35 days as part of their protest, want modification of the church's proposed $400,000 renovation plan, and in the words of one member "a change of heart that will reflect the reality of the world outside Georgetown."
The group has said in the past that one way for the church to do this would be to help in raising $80,000 the Community for Creative Non-Violence needs to renovate an abandoned building for a temporary shelter for the homeless.
"We've never seen this church give $400,000 to feed anybody," said Mitch Snyder, one of the CCNV members occupying the the courtyard. "The programs which the church has . . . do not represent a sacrifice on the congregation's part."
Calling the $80,000 initially sought by CCNV a "demand." Trinity's pastor, the Rev. James M. English said "we don't accede to demands because the parish has the right to calmly choose among the various requests made upon our limited resources."
The controversy began in April when CCNV learned about the church's renovation plans and Snyder asked for permission to address the congregation to urge a change in plans.
Though CCNV had previously received some donations and volunteer help from the church. Snyder's request to speak was denied by English. "It is against the rules of the archidocese for a visitor to make a major address during liturgy," he said.
English then met with the group and arranged meetings with the parish council and social concerns committee.
CCNV members subsquently began passing out leaflets to congregation members as they attended mass.
The renovation projected for the neoclassical church built in 1851 includes repairs of a leaking roof and loose cornices, moving heating and cooling equipment and changes to the structure to meet safety requirements.
According to a letter from the pastor to the congregation, the project also would include "plans for the design and renovation of the sancturary and support areas according to the liturgical demands of Vatican II." The total cost is $350,000 with an additional $50,000 earmarked for organ repairs.
"The accomplishment of the renovation is well within our financial capacities," the letter said.